*all reviews are spoiler free*
Title: Of Fire and Stars
Author: Audrey Coulthurst
Series Status: Standalone
# of pages: 389
My rating: 4.5/5 stars
The level of love and adoration that I have for this book defies words. First off it’s probably a slightly controversial book because it has main characters that don’t identify as straight. This is the first fantasy book besides Carry On that I have read like it. And honestly this book blows Carry On out of the water. I was in love with this book and I really want to just pick it up and read it again right now.
Starting off with the characters, which were spectacular. We have alternating POVs between the two love interests, Mare (Amaranthine) and Dennaleia (Denna). Both provide such unique views and are so different. We have Mare who is the outcast princess who prefers horses and trousers to dresses and parties, while Dennaleia is the total opposite; she’s spent her life leading up to her arranged marriage and future life as a queen. I really loved how Coulthurst used her opposing characters in such a great way. She took two very different people and instead of building on their opposing traits connected them with what they had in common. The bonding and progression throughout felt natural and even though it may have had a slight feeling of insta love I didn’t really perceive it that way and that made me love it even more.
The plot was slightly simplistic but I really enjoyed that because it added to the creating of the world and development for the characters. The search for an assassin amidst the struggles of an upcoming marriage and preparing for life as a queen made the story feel realistic and as relatable as a fantasy about magic and becoming a queen could be.
Possibly the only thing that I felt slightly underwhelmed about was the magical element itself. This is the only thing that kept my rating from being a full five stars. I devoured all the information about magic and it’s uses and origins and basically any information that I could gain on it but that was the problem. There wasn’t much information on the magic. I understand the use of downplaying it because the main character, Dennaleia, is trying to conceal it herself but I wish that in the beginning we had a better understanding for it. That’s why I’m hoping that this will be turned into a series because then they can really explore this world that Coulthurst created and give us all the information on this world that I am dying to have. But from the understanding of magic that we do get fits perfectly with the limited knowledge that all of the characters have so I can’t really fault that too much. I will however keep my fingers crossed that there will be a sequel where we can explore all of it with more depth.
Then we get to the pacing which was once again another perfect thing. I was really afraid that with the book being under 400 pages we would find a fast paced insta love story that got rushed but instead it was a slow burning romance with pacing to match. The pacing felt perfect because it started off really slow where you had to learn everything from the one characters point of view but slowly transitioned as the characters started to trust each other which helped set the pacing for the story but also the romance. With each POV change I could see the pacing quicken a little as the characters developed and eventually it slipped into a great buildup for the ending.
I absolutely loved that this book pushed boundaries not only with romance but with the position of women in the “traditional” kingdoms that are portrayed in most fantasy. Both characters face a set of issues from being female show how they can defy those odds. Coulthurst really used these two characters to defy so many traditional Tropes in fantasy and I really loved it. My favorite thing about that is that instead of having one of the characters fall into the “Chosen One” trope because of her magical abilities she uses them both equally to gain what they want. Without the use of this basic Trope it really made me feel like the characters could stand up for what they believed in solely for their beliefs instead of them having to have a supernatural power behind them for them to be treated equally.
Coulthurst’s writing style was so different than anything I’ve ever read. Even though it was a first person narrative with alternating points of view there is just this amazing flow to it and the way that she describes things was so beautiful and elegant that I could not get enough of it. I also did not realize until now that this was a debut novel, or at least I believe it is, but that just makes this more impressive to me and has turned Coulthurst into an auto buy author for anything else that she publishes.
Overall you can probably tell how much I loved this book and I will be immediately reading anything else that she publishes. I would recommend this to everyone I know even if they aren’t an avid reader because it was that amazing and I loved it so much that I can’t get enough of it.